SPOKANE, Wash. — Construction has begun to convert the former Cassano’s Grocery and Deli building into a shelter for homeless families.

Spokane based non-profit Family Promise purchased the historic building located at Mission Avenue and Napa Street. For more than two decades, the non-profit has provided shelter and resources to homeless families.

The non-profit opened the first emergency shelter for families in Spokane two years. The Open Doors Family Shelter, located in the Perry District, is open 24/7 and can house about 50 people. 

Family Promise Executive Director Joe Ader said they focus on keeping families together. Typically, shelters separate men and women. 

He said it can be difficult for families to find shelter space together. This is especially hard for single fathers and daughters.

Ader said children make up about 35 percent of Spokane’s homeless population and a majority of them are under the age of 12.   

"We opened a shelter where the entire family can stay together, so you don't have more trauma added to being homeless,” Ader said. "The kids are kind of the hidden homeless and the families are kind of the hidden homeless in our city."

Ader said they outgrew the Perry District location and started looking for a new space a year ago.

In 2017, unable to meet the overhead costs to maintain the building, the owner of the Cassano’s building put it on the market.

Family Promise announced plans to purchase the building last fall. They planned to renovate the main level and basement to bring it up to code and get it ready for families. The 12,000-square foot area is expected to house 80 people at a time. 

The space will have showers, a laundry facility, a fully stocked kitchen, a kids play area and daily case management.

"The day you become homeless with kids this is where you can go get some resources to get back on to your feet,” Ader said. 

The eight apartments on the top floor of the building will remain as low-income housing and current tenants will be able to stay.

The project has received some pushback from residents in the area. Family Promise found out neighbors are concerned about how the shelter will impact the surrounding community through community outreach.

Family Promise cites the success of the Perry District location as a response to many concerns. 

Move-in is set for June. Ader said they look forward to the day they can open their doors for those who need it most.

"It's really a blessing that we get to see people on their worst day and get to pour hope into them,” Ader said.

Residents who have questions or would like to tour the building are invited to contact Family Promise.